Adventures in ACE XVI: Holy Hydrosphere, Bibleman!

Can you believe it’s been six months since we last deconstructed the dreck that is Accelerated Christian Education? I’ve been preoccupied with A Beka and BJU, because they’re more challenging. But ACE brings a unique je ne sais WTF that no other Christian textbook company can even approach, so let us return to ACE PACE 1087, and stare agape at the ways they mangle science for the Lord.

They’re on about Areas of the Hydrosphere now. The ACE writers think it’s more interesting if they have absurd characters babbling to each other, so they’re feeding us what one might loosely refer to as facts via a father-son babblefest. Little Ace is eager to show off his knowledge to dear old Dad, but he leaves out the fact that all water, including the frozen and subsurface stuff, is part of Earth’s hydrosphere. So while he gets points for mentioning oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers as major components thereof, I’m docking him for neglecting groundwater and glaciers, which account for enormous amounts of the planet’s water. In fact, if you only want to cover “major” water bodies, you’d best be leaving lakes and rivers out, as they account for only about 3% of the earth’s fresh water. Groundwater is 30.8%, while glaciers are a whopping 68.9%. And yeah, groundwater pumping and anthropogenic climate change are shrinking both sources fast, but a) not that fast and b) the Real True Christians™ behind ACE probably don’t believe humans have any impact on God’s Perfect Creation anyway. So we’ll chalk that failure to mention important bits up to incompetence.

I have to give props to Ace’s dad for pointing out that the various oceans are all one interconnected mass of water. But then he goes and buggers up the sizes. The Arctic Ocean is not bigger than the Antarctic Ocean, and besides, the Antarctic is now known as the Southern Ocean, you ignoramus.

After that dreary bit of misinformation, Ace’s dad segues into a completely useless story about a fictional dude named Philip Nolan. Now, human interest stories can definitely liven up the learning, and even fictional stuff can teach us science stuff. But the only bearing Mr. Nolan has on the hydrosphere is that he’s condemned to sail it for the rest of his life, and he marked up a Bible verse about some people wanting a better country. Ace’s dad makes a sad little attempt to make this all relevant to the hydrosphere by noting that Nolan could only do all this non-stop sailing cuz all the oceans are connected, which he’d already told us, and it’s all very pathetic even by Christianist educational standards.

Ace’s dad gets the facts about seas right, but gets really tedious while explaining why the Great Salt Lake should be the Great Salt Sea (saltwater, you see) and the Caspian Sea should be the Caspian Lake (freshwater), and I’m all, “Dude, it’s naming conventions, it’s historical, just GTF over it already.” And my gods, does he ever get the size of the Caspian wrong! He says it’s over 50,000 square miles, which is technically true, I suppose – I mean, the same way you’d be correct if someone asked you how old I am and you said, “Oh, she’s over ten.” The Caspian is actually 143,200 square miles. And even then, it’s only the largest lake by surface area – it’s not the biggest by volume (that’s Lake Baikal). You’re supposed to be teaching these kids science, you ignorant schmuck! What’s you’re actually teaching them is trivia, and you can’t even get that right!

Underground water gets a mention as Ace’s dad goes on about the Lost Sea, and I’m amazed he’s able to refrain from pointing out that it’s actually a lake.

Of course, this being a Christianist textbooklet, he can’t help but babble on about the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. He skims over why one is fresh and the other salty, but doesn’t connect those facts to the larger earth science principle: that an inland body of water will be fresh or salty depending on whether it’s getting charged with fresh water, has an outlet, experiences high rates of evaporation, and other factors. So much for the kiddies learning more than trivia. And he pivots from Trivial Pursuit to Bible Trivia almost instantly:

“The abundance of life in the flowing waters of Lake Galilee [sic], as opposed to the absence of life in the Dead Sea, illustrates an important spiritual principle. For our lives to be abundant, we must allow God’s Word to flow into our lives daily. However, we must also allow what we learn to flow out to help others. Christians who do not put Biblical principles into action in their own lives and who do not share Christ with others demonstrate that ‘faith without works is dead’ (James 2:20b).”

Because that’s so relevant to earth science, y’all.

They yammer some river trivia, none of it very informative – I mean, don’t just tell us rivers are important to the hydrologic cycle, show us why! (No, they never did mention why even when they were supposed to be ‘splaining how the hydrologic cycle works.) Of course, they get diverted from rivers nearly instantly, because they figure it’s more important for kids to know that Nile River explorer David Livingstone’s heart was removed by “national Christians” and buried in his beloved Africa when he died. They don’t bother to name these “national Christians” (Chuma and Susi), nor mention they were from Mozambique (or possibly Malawi, in Chuma’s case), thus adding a heaping helping of covert racism to our platter of factoids irrelevant to earth science education.

After that, we finally get to learn something about how rivers and streams function! Ace’s dad tells us, “Sources of rivers are sometimes difficult to discover,” which is true. Good for him. He knows A Thing. He uses “drainage basin” when he should probably be talking about a “watershed,” but at least we’re finally getting some functional hydrologic info. It’s a bloody miracle, children. Mark the date.

Next comes a splendid instance in which information ≠ education:

“Because the Mississippi River is east of the high mountain ridge known as the Continental Divide, the Mississippi drains through the Gulf of Mexico into the Atlantic Ocean. Any drainage basin west of the Continental Divide drains into the Pacific Ocean.”

Note how Ace’s dad never explains that continental divides are a worldwide phenomenon, and how they work. He doesn’t even note that there’s more than one divide in North America, and that not all rivers west of the Great Divide flow into the ocean.

Image shows a grayscale map of North America, with the states and provinces drawn in. The map shows the Great Divide (red line), the Laurentian Divide (green), the Arctic Divide (blue), the St. Lawrence Divide (pink), the Eastern Divide (yellow), and the Great Basin (brown).
Map showing the major Continental divides of North America. Image and caption courtesy Pfly (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Nope. He just dumps some incomplete trivia divorced from context and moves on. You, dear student, are supposed to memorize stuff, not learn how to think for yourself. Perish thought!

Then Ace’s dad tells us that the Mississippi dumps a lot of “dirt” into the Gulf, because apparently the word sediment is too difficult for good Christian middle schoolers. He claims the mighty Colorado “can break a six-foot (2-m) [sic] boulder into small bits in just four years,” which is kinda meaningless – I mean, how quickly the river can break up a large rock depends on streamflow and how hard the rock is. I guarantee you Coconino Sandstone or Kaibab Limestone will break apart faster than the Vishnu Schist. But then, it’s just meant to be a creationist dogwhistle, anyway, as the following sentence makes clear:

“This erosion process can quickly dig out steep-sided valleys or canyons.”

Uh-huh. Yep. Course, around 6 million or so years is an eyeblink in geologic time, but I have a sneaking suspicion they meant to imply that it all happens in less than 6,000 years.

Nice try, Ace’s dad. But I see through you. And I see that you are completely full of shit.

Image shows a tabby cat with a photoshopped top hat, monocle, and red bowtie, leaning on the arm of a sofa. Caption says, "What absolute twaddle."

Catch up on all the whacky Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education here.

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Adventures in ACE XVI: Holy Hydrosphere, Bibleman!

2 thoughts on “Adventures in ACE XVI: Holy Hydrosphere, Bibleman!

  1. 2

    Underground water gets a mention as Ace’s dad goes on about the Lost Sea, and I’m amazed he’s able to refrain from pointing out that it’s actually a lake.

    Cheers! Hadn’t heard of that underground lake before. Or Chuma and Susi either -some new things learnt today.

    Of course, this being a Christianist textbooklet, he can’t help but babble on about the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. .. peaching snip .. Because that’s so relevant to earth science, y’all.

    Indeed, although guess we’;re lucky he didn’t dredge up the old Sodom and Gomorrah stuff here.

    Ace’s dad tells us, “Sources of rivers are sometimes difficult to discover,” which is true.

    River’s endings can be difficult to discover too – just look at the cases of the Tarim river in the Taklamakan (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarim_River) or closer to my home most of the inland rivers such as the Todd and Cooper’s Creek* which (*very* occassionally) flow into Lake Eyre.

    Then Ace’s dad tells us that the Mississippi dumps a lot of “dirt” into the Gulf, because apparently the word sediment is too difficult for good Christian middle schoolers.

    So, “sediment” is a dirty word but ‘dirt’ is a clean one?

    Good take down of something its hard to believe they force on anyone – let alone kids that are supposed to be learning anything.

    *My fave piece of fluvial trivia; Cooper’s Creek is the only case in the world where two rivers – the Thompson and the Barcoo – join together to make a creek!

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